Sue Tomlinson is the Training Co-ordinator, a Trustee and a Council member for Wirral Community Narrowboat Trust. She is a retired teacher and is involved in other voluntary groups as well as WCNT.
Sue and a team of five carry out all NCBA training for their volunteers. They are all qualified NCBA trainers and their volunteers are all required to obtain NCBA Community Crewing level; they may also go on to NCBA CCBM level if they so wish. Sue, along with all the Trust’s members, is a volunteer; nobody gets paid.
We had narrowboat holidays as a family as our children were growing up but my first involvement with community boating was through my husband when he volunteered to be a member of WCNT. We have not owned our own boat. All my boating experience has been on WCNT’s two community boats.
I have sailed on the Shropshire canal; the Llangollen canal; the Bridgewater canal and the Trent and Mersey canal. My favourite journeys are from Chirk to the Pontcysyllte aqueduct and from Preston Brook to the Anderton Lift and down and back up on the lift.
I had some time available
I became involved with Wirral Community Trust when they asked me if I would help out organising their bookings and I became Bookings Manager. It came at the right time for me because I had just retired and had some time available. Anyway, I then thought that seeing that I was involved I may as well become a sailing member and subsequently took the NCBA CCC course and CCBM course. The Trust needed a Training Co-ordinator and, with my previous teaching experience, I applied for the role. I undertook an NCBA Trainers’ course and have been training for the past 18 months.
I would love to see more women get involved
I am amazed at how few women I have met who are qualified Skippers or Trainers and would love to see more involved. When I took my Trainers course there were two other women on the course which pleasantly surprised me but I believe that that is highly unusual. All the Trust’s women volunteers have undertaken NCBA Crewing courses and a couple have taken the NCBA CCBM course. We encourage everyone to become a Skipper regardless of their gender.
I, and my team, set the dates for the courses; run the courses and keep all courses updated as necessary. For example, we have just bought a brand new wheelchair friendly boat, and I have updated the training schemes of work to take into account the differences from the old boat. I also organise First Aid training for all our volunteers. I am constantly heartened by the amount of time that our volunteers are willing to give up for training requirements as well as the actual taking out of the community groups, boat maintenance, admin. etcetera.
30 years of community boating
Wirral Community Narrowboat Trust is an all-volunteer, fully registered charity, which has been in existence for 30 years and provides day and residential trips for less able people, special schools, community groups . It is funded by donations for trips from many generous individuals and local Rotary, Round Table and Lions clubs. We have two brand new 70ft narrowboats which are fitted with wheelchair lifts and ramps and wheelchair friendly facilities. The Trust provides a skipper and crew for all groups up to 12 people. The Trust’s sailing season is April to October and we run approximately 300 trips each year. We have 116 members with around 80 who are sailing members.
Anyone can take part
Leisure boaters obviously already know the enjoyment of being out on a canal and a narrowboat. Being involved with community boating enables anyone to take part in a pleasurable activity, enjoy themselves and at the same time give something back to the community. As far as WCNT is concerned, it is a way of helping disadvantaged groups to undertake an activity in which they otherwise would not be able to take part.
So rewarding – even in the rain!
I would encourage everyone to get involved with community boating; it is so rewarding. It is an exceedingly pleasant way in which to spend a day (even in the rain), it is so relaxing. Even driving the boat is relaxing and you know that, when you first start, there is always someone on hand to help if things become tricky. You do not have to be mechanically minded; most of it is common sense. Competence in boat handling is soon acquired with practice. I would definitely urge someone, once involved in community boating to undertake NCBA courses; they help you to know what to do and what not to do to ensure safe boating.
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